U.S. Designates Iranian Chief Justice

U.S. Designates Iranian Chief Justice

Annie Fixler , Behnam Ben Taleblu
12th January 2018 - FDD Policy Brief

The U.S. Treasury Department designated Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani today under non-nuclear authorities for his role in the human rights violations in Iran. As Iran’s chief justice and head of the judicial branch since August 2009, Larijani has for nearly a decade overseen the Islamic Republic’s judicial apparatus, a central component of the regime’s repression of the Iranian people.

The Treasury Department sanctioned Larijani pursuant to Executive Order 13553, which punishes human rights abuses committed by the Government of Iran. Specifically, the Treasury Department explained that Larijani overseas death sentences and the “torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment … including amputations” of Iranian prisoners.

In 2012, the EU sanctioned Larijani for his personal role in “systemic failures in the Iranian judicial process,” which not only features unfair trial processes but also grotesque punishments like juvenile executions and “corporal punishment … [including] amputations and the dripping of acid into the eyes of the convicted,” the EU noted.

Amidst the recent protests in the streets of Iran, the designation is a clear message from the U.S. government that human rights abuses will not be ignored. In response to the unrest, Larijani demandeda robust response from Iranian prosecutors, and his deputy threatened the “heaviest sentence” against protesters. UN human rights experts condemned these threats as “unacceptable”; however, Larijani previously attacked the work of at least two UN special rapporteurs for their analysis of the dismal human rights situation in Iran and dismissed international criticism of Tehran’s human rights record. 

Larijani’s designation is a signal that the Trump administration is willing to target the upper echelon of the Iranian leadership. The sanctions against him are part of the administration’s latest round targeting not only human rights abusers, but also those who facilitate the military activities of Iran’s Ministry of Defense and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. 

Alongside these new sanctions, the Trump administration re-issued waivers providing relief from nuclear sanctions under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal for another 120-day period. Thus, even as it agrees to maintain the nuclear deal for a limited period, the Trump administration is increasing the pressure on Tehran for its dangerous non-nuclear behavior.


Behnam Ben Taleblu is a senior Iran analyst at Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where Annie Fixler is a policy analyst at FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance (CSIF). Follow Annie on Twitter @afixler.

Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

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